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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Summer 2005

T C E603A • Composition and Reading in World Literature

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
32240 MWF
11:00 AM-12:00 PM
PAR 302

Course Description

"Invention," for our purposes is what we do whenever we say anything about anythingwith an adjective, or metaphor, or statement. We say what something is like, and that involves making a choice, possibly an interesting or revealing choice. In our language and culture, Love is so amorphous and ambiguous (and even trite) as to be almost meaningless until it is reinvented in one context or another. In some contexts, love is invented as hopeless yearning, distance, forlornness, brevity, jealousy, even betrayal. In others it is invented as companionship, trust, easygoing familiarity. It may be expressed as possessing another or being possessed, thralldomor it may be liberation, release. It may be describable as the touch of flesh to flesh, or it may on the contrary be a rarified matter of spirit. Is it an enabler, or a disabler? Accidental, or deliberate? Sensible, or mad? Moral, or amoral? Stable and faithful, or impetuous and wild? Is it at basis compassionate, or narcissistic? Is it hierarchical, involving dominance and submission, or does it express equality? Are we to think of it as open plainness, or as magic? Is it a mansion? A wind? A ghost? A tyrant? A death? A shared joke? A rite or sacrament? A form of play? A knowledge? A blindness? Latin and Greek once afforded some defined options: Agape, amicitia, amor, cathexis, caritas, consensus, cupiditas, desiderium, eros, fervor, libido, misericordia, mollitia, motus, etc. But our trite, overused love just leaves us at sea, and we have to get our bearings by fresh metaphor and by dramatic negotiation.

About the Professor Be warned: I am a grandfather (more accurately, a grandmother's helper), an outdoor-sort-of-person (sculling, canoeing, walking), and for my first twenty-eight years a dour Yankee. I have studied at Amherst, Yale, and Kings College London. I have taught at CUNY, UConn, Yale, UNH, University College Galway, and, for most of my time, at UT. My special loves are Chaucers Canterbury pilgrims, and Shakespeares characters, perhaps because they know that they are inventing themselves, and do it so experimentally and competitively. I know something about devotional practices in the 14th-17th centuries.

Grading Policy

You will write about eight short (2-3 pages.) papers in the first semester, seven of them revisable, and your course grade will be no lower than the average of those papers. One goal of the first semester is to prepare students to take on the challenge of longer papers in the spring.


Provisionally, our fall readings will include: selections from The King James Bible (Genesis, the Psalms, the Song of Songs, Matthew); Homer, The Odyssey; Sappho, Lyrics; Aeschylus, Agamemnon; Sophocles Oedipus; Aristophanes, Lysistrata; Ovid, Metamorphoses; Augustine Confessions; Beowulf; Marie de France, Lais; Dante, Inferno; Chaucer, Canterbury Tales; Erasmus, Praise of Folly; and Shakespeare, Othello. However I shall make revisions to this list wherever you are already overly familiar with a particular work. In the spring semester we will explore chiefly English inventions of love; and here for instance is a partial historical sequence: George Herbert and John Donne in the early 1600s "make" love with a witty, role-playing counterpart lover, either Divine or human. In the later 1600s John Milton's Paradise Lost displays an array of loves, but the most memorable is Satans, for whom love is an outgrowth of intelligent narcissism and melancholia. In the 1700s we encounter inventions of love that are less psychologically exploratory and more titillating and tacticalfor instance in plays by Goldsmith or Sheridan. The nineteenth century discovers settings for love: exotic settings, wild or remote or nighttime settings, gothic settings, and love is again psychologizeda displacement-into-the-dark. Finally, in the twentieth century, Eliot, Joyce, Woolf and Lively invent love as a saving possibility, and one most often just-out-of-reach. (Dont ever indulge is such shamelessly glib generalities as I have just given you! And treat everything I say with the gravest skepticism!) Our central texts will be The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces and The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Major Authors. In the spring we will supplement these with three novels: Emily Brontð, Wuthering Heights; Penelope Lively, Moon Tiger; and Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway.


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